Speech from Hoosier legend

Steve Alford was born in Franklin. He conducts a basketball camp in Franklin, and has close family ties to Franklin.

He also is a former Indiana University basketball star, is a long-time college basketball coach and is, by virtue of accomplishment and connection to the school, the personification of what Franklin College seeks in a commencement speaker.

Alford, 51, will be the keynote speaker during Franklin’s May 21 commencement ceremony on campus in Spurlock Center Gymnasium. He also will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the college.

An Olympic gold-medal winner who led Indiana to the 1987 NCAA basketball championship as a player, Alford is the men’s basketball coach at UCLA.

In three seasons with the Bruins, Alford has guided them to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

“We really look to bring in people who have some statewide or national prominence who would be of interest for the graduates to listen to who have an inspiring story to tell, and who have some connection to the college,” said David Brailow, Franklin’s vice president for academic affairs.

Alford’s connection to the college dates to the early 1960s, when his father, Sam Alford, was a standout player on the school’s men’s basketball team. Steve Alford was born in 1964 at Johnson Memorial Hospital, shortly before his dad embarked on a highly successful high school coaching career, most notably at New Castle.

Playing for his dad, Alford was a star player at New Castle before going to Indiana and earning a spot on the 1984 men’s U.S. Olympic basketball team. He played four seasons with the Hoosiers, was an All-American and had a brief NBA career before becoming a college head coach in 1991.

Alford’s first job was at NCAA Division III Manchester College (1992-95). He has since had Division I stints at Missouri State (1996-99), Iowa (2000-07) and New Mexico (2008-13), and has been at UCLA since for three seasons.

Entering his 26th season as a head coach, Alford has a combined 528 victories and is the youngest coach in the nation with that many wins.

Despite his success and varied coaching stops, Alford has conducted a youth basketball camp every summer at Franklin College for 29 years. The camp will mark its 30th anniversary in June.

“I think he’s really been someone that has maintained an interest in the college,” Brailow said. “It’s nice to have someone speak who knows where they are and what they’re talking about.”

But Alford isn’t the only speaker of note during commencement celebration.

Barbara Brown Taylor, a best-selling author, professor and Episcopal priest, will deliver the baccalaureate address to graduating seniors May 20 in Spurlock Center Gynmasium, the day before commencement.

She is a prolific author whose first memoir, “Leaving Church,” was a New York Times best-seller and won a 2006 Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writer’s Association.

A graduate of Yale Divinity School and Emory University, Taylor has authored 13 books and has honorary divinity degrees from eight colleges and universities. She has been an Episcopal priest since 1984 and is expected to speak on faith and how it connects to life issues as graduates begin their post-college journeys.

“She’s one of the best preachers alive today, so she’s a perfect person to speak at an event that has more spiritual focus,” said Leah Rumsey, Franklin College’s campus minister. “She is an excellent, excellent role model for our students in terms of somebody who has combined scholarship and the life of the mind with a life of faith and the care of their own soul.”

The commencement and baccalaureate addresses are free and open to the public.

Seating is expected to be limited for commencement, so tickets are required. They can be obtained by contacting the Academic Affairs office at 738-8018.

Tickets are not required for the baccalaureate event.

“We are delighted to have her,” Rumsey said. “Because her speaking engagements are less frequent, we really do want to emphasize that we are inviting the community and we are inviting local churches.

“We hope that folks will take advantage of this great opportunity.”

If you go

What: Franklin College commencement ceremony

When: 10 a.m., May 21

Where: Spurlock Center Gymnasium on the Franklin College campus

Commencement speaker: Steve Alford, former Indiana University basketball player who is now the men’s basketball coach at UCLA.

Admission: Free and open to the public; seating is limited; tickets can be obtained through the Academic Affairs office at 738-8018

If you go

What: Franklin College baccalaureate address

When: 4:30 p.m., May 20

Where: Spurlock Center Gynmasium on the Franklin College campus

Speaker: Barbara Brown Taylor, New York Times best-selling and author and Episcopal priest

Admission: Free and open to the public

Rick Morwick is sports editor of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rmorwick@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.